The weekend started on Friday morning with the drive along the Bells Line of Road to Bathurst. We met at North Richmond, at the base of the Blue Mountains, and headed up in convoy over the mountains.
Once you are up the mountains the road stretches out to a very scenic run west. The only downside with this route is that, being a single carriage roadway, you may get stuck behind some slower traffic for a period. This can be frustrating but usually an overtaking lane or opportunity is not too far away.
After cutting across to the Great Western Highway via the Darling Causeway, we paused at Mt Victoria to catch everyone up and then we headed down the mountain to our Air BnB at Little Hartley.
All the cars made a grand sight lined up, on the front lawn, of the residence as you can see.
After dropping off our gear we headed to Bathurst via Tarana for lunch. The pub there is always a great place to stop on a drive.
Upon arriving at Bathurst, we picked up our accreditations for Saturday, had a quick look around and then headed back, again via Tarana. On the way back we stopped at a local pub just outside Lithgow for a cool beverage and an unwind. Unsurprisingly, this drew a bit of a crowd but everyone was more than happy to share the car passion. Petrol-heads are the same no matter where they are.
Dinner was at the local pizza place in Little Hartley, after which, happy and contented we headed back to the house, a short distance away, to get ready for a full day at Mount Panorama tomorrow.
After rising early we headed back up the mountain to Mt Victoria to have breakfast with some colleagues who were accommodated on the cliffs overlooking the valley. Unfortunately, the weather was cloudy, wet and rainy but the breakfast was magic.
We the rolled back down the hill and on towards Bathurst. Some again, went via Tarana, I stuck to the main road (given the F355 doesn’t have fancy inclusions like traction control). The further west we went the clearer the skies became until we once again arrived in Bathurst.
You get a nice sense of entitlement when you are waved through the checkpoints and directed right to the entry of the course, were the display was for the day. With the car parked I headed off to take a look around at the frantic work happening in the pits and then to avail myself of hospitality suite.
The suite was right over the pits and a stones throw from the main straight. You could stay inside and watch the race and commentary on the main screen or head out onto the balcony to smell to octane and rubber.
Around midday we again got the opportunity to lap the track. This year we managed to squeeze in two ‘parade laps’. This is basically a case of follow the pace car around the track and with so many cars this year the pace was quite leisurely. However, even at these low speeds you get a great appreciate for what the track is all about, how challenging it is and why racing drivers love this place. It is something very unique, right here in our back yard.
The rest of the day was spent wandering around and watching the happenings on the track. We were also lucky enough to get a guided tour through one of the large transporters that was now decked out as accommodation for the teams. All I can say is that I want one of these transporters!
With racing done for the day we headed back home but this time we took the longer way there via Soafla. This is a really excellent drive with plenty of nice twisty roads as well as some challenging climbs and descents all along some excellent roads. In the afternoon sun, after a great day at the track, this was an excellent way to bring the day to a finale.
Not having been this route previously, I arrived at Soafla without any issues but didn’t see any road signs back towards Lithgow. Unfortunately, being in a valley, there was no phone reception here, so the GPS got a tad mixed up. After doing a quick lap of this very small town I headed off in what seemed like the correct direction, back out of the valley, up the other side. After a few kilometres I picked up the signs to the Illford, which then put me back on the road to Lithgow. I’ll have to make time to come back and this drive again, it was really great! Here’s the route:
and off to a nice meal at the Amber Rose in Little Hartley, which in this case was close enough to the house for us to walk there and back.
The Bathurst 12Hr starts at about 0545 and we had the option for a pit walk. However that would have required being there by 0500. That meant leaving the house at about 0400. Given that I had to work on Monday, I decided that this wasn’t for me so I had a bit of a sleep in, watched some of the race on the TV and then headed back up the mountain for breakfast at Petalura eatery in Mt Victoria.
After and excellent breakfast, it was time to head back along the Darling Causeway and along the Bells Line of Road back home, which was accomplished without incident.
The F355 performed flawlessly and was a joy to drive along the country road and just as came down from Mt Victoria on the Friday it passed the 70,000 kms milestone.
I had a great weekend and can’t wait to do it again! I’ll be back in 2019!
Next adventure? The Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne.